FirstFT: Barclays chief steps down over Epstein probe

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Jes Staley has stepped down as Barclays’ chief executive with immediate effect following an investigation by UK regulators into his relationship with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Barclays said it was made aware on Friday evening of the preliminary conclusions from the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority’s investigation into Staley’s characterisation to Barclays of his relationship with Epstein and the subsequent description of that relationship in Barclays’ response to the regulator.

In a statement issued earlier today the bank said: “In view of those conclusions, and Mr Staley’s intention to contest them, the board and Mr Staley have agreed that he will step down from his role as group chief executive and as a director of Barclays.”

It added: “It should be noted that the investigation makes no findings that Mr Staley saw, or was aware of, any of Mr Epstein’s alleged crimes, which was the central question underpinning Barclays’ support for Mr Staley following the arrest of Mr Epstein in the summer of 2019.”

Epstein was until 2013 a key client of JPMorgan’s private bank, which Staley used to run. Staley developed a relationship with Epstein and visited the sex offender’s island on his yacht in 2015.

Emails between the two men — handed over to US regulators by JPMorgan and then shared with UK regulators — suggested their relationship was friendlier than claimed by Staley, who had categorised the association as professional.

Epstein took his own life in 2019 while awaiting trial on charges that he sex-trafficked underage girls.

Staley will be replaced by CS Venkatakrishnan, the head of global markets at Barclays and a former chief risk officer.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Americas. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Gordon

Five more stories in the news

1. President Joe Biden hails US-EU steel deal In a deal swiftly criticised by China, the US and EU have agreed to work jointly on a “global arrangement” to support sustainable steel and aluminium to reduce overcapacity and encourage greener production.

2. Japan’s ruling Liberal Democrats secure general election victory The Liberal Democratic party, under new leader Fumio Kishida, crushed the opposition in Sunday’s general election. The LDP retained majority control of the Diet’s lower house, sparing the new prime minister a humiliating defeat that would have jeopardised his short leadership.

3. Big Tech loses nearly $10bn after iPhone privacy changes Apple’s decision to change the privacy settings of iPhones caused an estimated $9.85bn of revenues to evaporate in the second half of this year at Snap, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as their advertising businesses were shaken by the new rules.

4. HNA’s $170bn restructuring plan approved A Chinese court has approved the $170bn restructuring of HNA Group, formerly China’s most aggressive offshore dealmaker. The victory for the conglomerate’s state controllers could prove instructive for how Beijing deals with the heavily indebted property group Evergrande.

5. Ukraine gas chief urges Europe to resist Russian pressure over pipeline Kyiv says Russian president Vladimir Putin is using gas as a “geopolitical weapon” by insisting extra supplies go via the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which bypasses Ukraine to supply Germany directly via the Baltic Sea.

COP26 digest

With world leaders gathering in the Scottish city of Glasgow for the UN climate conference we will be keeping you up to date with developments in a daily news digest. Moral Money, our sustainable finance newsletter, will be publishing daily throughout the summit. Sign up here to receive it. You can also scroll down to read an exclusive Q&A about COP with our environment expert Leslie Hook.

British prime minister Boris Johnson has warned there is “a huge way still to go” at the COP26 climate summit, after G20 leaders agreed to end the international financing of coal power.

Transport chaos overshadowed the start of the climate summit after train services were cancelled from London Euston to Glasgow because of storm damage.

With 38,895 registrants, COP26 is expected to rival the 2015 Paris summit for the biggest attendance despite the pandemic and last-minute rail disruptions.

Column chart of number of delegates showing COP attendance grows, spiking in treaty years

The day ahead

Microsoft reclaims title of most valuable public company The software company begins the week as the world’s most valuable publicly listed company after its shares rose on Friday and those of Apple slumped following a weak quarterly earnings update from the maker of iPhones and Mac computers.

Line chart of Market capitalisation ($tn) showing Microsoft surpasses Apple's market value

Supreme Court to hear arguments on Texas abortion laws The US Supreme Court will hear arguments on Monday in a battle over Texas’s attempt to enact one of the most restrictive laws on abortion in the country.

Manufacturing data released The Institute for Supply Management releases its monthly report today in the US, providing the latest snapshot on activity in the manufacturing sector. There is also manufacturing data released today in Canada, Mexico and Brazil.

What else we’re reading

Biden forced into ‘baby steps’ on the road to fiscal reform When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attended a gala dinner at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last month with “tax the rich” written in red letters across her white dress, those goals seemed likely to be achieved. But that effort came crashing down last week and a more modest plan has emerged.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York lawmaker, attends a gala dinner at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with ‘tax the rich’ written in red letters across her white dress
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York lawmaker, attends a gala dinner at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with ‘tax the rich’ written in red letters across her white dress © Ray Tamarra/Getty Images

The dawn of the quantitative tightening era? Bank of America estimates that central banks have bought $23tn of financial securities since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. But with the Federal Reserve this week expected to start trimming its $120bn-a-month bond buying, could we be seeing the end of this “liquidity supernova” and the beginning of a new era for monetary policy, asks Robin Wigglesworth.

Tinder founders go to court over bitter break-up with Barry Diller A legal fight in a New York state court this week over the multibillion-dollar fortune created by the hit dating app Tinder threatens to expose the inner workings of Barry Diller’s sprawling media empire. US Lex editor Sujeet Indap previews the court case.

Will ailing Turkish economy bring down Erdogan? Opposition parties are becoming bullish about defeating Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a leader who appears unwilling to change his idiosyncratic approach to running Turkey’s $765bn economy.

Scientists warn of ‘near-unlivable’ conditions Up to 3bn of a projected world population of 9bn could be exposed to temperatures on par with the hottest parts of the Sahara by 2070, according to scientists from China, the US and Europe.

How green politics went mainstream The UN’s COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow will showcase the pace at which traditional parties and leaders are adopting green policies that many have previously overlooked or even disparaged. Still, the plethora of net zero pledges has yet to put a serious dent in global carbon emissions.

COP26 Q&A with Leslie Hook 

Leslie Hook is the FT’s environment and clean energy correspondent and will be attending the UN climate conference. Ahead of the summit we put some of your questions to Leslie and a few of our own.

FirstFT: Why is COP26 so significant?
Leslie Hook: It’s the biggest climate summit in many years — and the biggest gathering of heads of state since the beginning of the pandemic. Six years after the Paris climate accord was approved, the Glasgow summit has to finalise the rules and details of exactly how that pact will be implemented — which will be a difficult job. COP26 is also a crucial moment for the UK politically, as its post-Brexit diplomatic muscle is being put to the test.

FFT: Are there any notable world leaders who won’t be at COP26? 
LH: It is a bit of a blow that Xi Jinping of China, which is the world’s largest emitter, won’t be there — particularly since he was one of the champions of the 2015 Paris accord. Also Vladimir Putin of Russia, one of the world’s biggest carbon producers, won’t be there but he has recently changed his tune on climate change. He’s even started talking about a “carbon neutral” goal by 2060. We don’t really know what that goal means though, and without him in Glasgow, we probably won’t find out.

FFT: What’s the best-case and worst-case scenario for the talks?
LH: A best-case scenario would be a clear agreement on the rules of the 2015 Paris climate accord. That pact agreed on a broad goal — limiting global warming to well below 2C, ideally 1.5C — but it didn’t iron out the details. A poor outcome would be if the final conclusion is a set of weak rules that allows for wiggle room and inconsistencies. There is also a big wild card: Covid-19. UK infection rates are high and people are travelling from all over the world to Glasgow, and then back home. Organisers are requiring daily lateral flow tests, mask wearing and social distancing, but there’s still a health risk.

FFT: Would it be practical to invite drivers to reduce their speed to 20 per cent below limits during the conference to reduce emissions, asks DJ van Rest, from Amersham, southern England.
LH: Transport emissions will be one of the themes of the conference and we can expect to see a lot of news about electric vehicles. The UK has been working with car companies and countries on an EV pact (still under wraps) and will be putting on a bit of a show with world leaders arriving in electric Jaguar SUVs. As for reducing driving speeds, I’m not aware of a COP-related initiative, but we’ll be hearing a lot about cars, particularly on transport day on November 10.

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